- The Washington Times - Monday, July 28, 2003

As the dust settles after war, it can take several months before an accurate picture emerges of the scene on the ground. In the interim period, it can be frustrating for Americans not to have a precise reading of the situation their troops are in, and we in the press also can be frustrated with a lack of tangible information. Too frequently, however, this frustration with the unknown is portrayed as frustration with a decidedly unsatisfactory level of progress, which is an entirely different complaint. Luckily, on the first score, we have respected journalists returning from Iraq with first-person accounts that steady progress is being made over there.

In The Washington Post on Sunday, foreign-affairs columnist Jim Hoagland reported that, “Iraq is much calmer than I expected from daily dispatches and television accounts that rarely treat sustained progress as news. The joint American-British occupation authority is making real progress in handing over responsibility to local authorities.” Writing from Mosul, Mr. Hoagland criticized the Bush administration for not being clearer about its goals for reconstruction, and expressed doubt that the job can be done in the amount of time American public opinion will allow. But he also admitted that the effort to “win hearts and minds” is positive and that U.S. generals really are trying to “make Iraq into a country that works.” These views are important coming from a distinguished media voice.

Similar progress reports are coming from other mainstream sources. Christopher Hitchens, a decidedly non-credulous international journalist, told Fox News, “It’s quite extraordinary to see the way American soldiers are welcomed. To see the work that they’re doing — and not just rolling up these filthy networks of Ba’athists and jihadists — but building schools, opening soccer stadiums, helping connect to the Internet, there is a really intelligent political program as well as a very tough military one.” Because the daily lives of Iraqis are improving and political stability is increasing, Wall Street Journal editor Paul Gigot reports from Najaf that, “The majority aren’t worried we’ll stay too long; they’re petrified we’ll leave too soon.”

Since the end of the war to oust Saddam’s regime, much has been made of the isolated ambushes on U.S. troops, and the media has hyped the non-story that Americans are already tiring of the mounting body count. A frequent line — especially on TV news shows — is that this resistance is in marked contrast to the peaceful time American GIs had reconstructing Germany after a longer and nastier Second World War. This is not in fact the case, as pockets of Nazis did employ a hit-and-run guerrilla campaign to try to dissuade allied occupation and reconstruction. From the fall of Berlin in May 1945 and into 1947, Nazi resistance fighters — known as werewolves — blew up roads and bridges, assassinated German officials cooperating with the Allies, sniped at GIs, sacked museums and undertook countless other acts of vigilantism and sabotage. Eventually this mayhem passed and Germany became a peace-loving capitalist democracy. The goal in Iraq is a difficult one, but progress is being made — and is now finally being reported on.

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